I left Bangkok with continuous bright sunshine and a sturdy, prevailing tailwind whisking me south towards the equator. After weeks of heading back west after my slight detour to Japan, I feel like I'm finally heading in the right direction around the globe again. Not far down the coast I found myself checking into a deserted youth hostel seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It seems that the youth hostel association of Thailand seem to do things a little differently to the good old British YHA as instead of sitting around a slightly dreary and musty smelling common room with a group of slightly unkempt youngsters, I found myself relaxing in a jacuzzi overlooking the golden sands of the private beach just meters away with just one young family to share the whole resort with. Beach running is something I love and now miss from those long summer days in Aberdeen. The last time I ran was during a game of football six months previously on a Sunday afternoon in Ukraine. Still, all that cycling in between would surely give me the fitness I needed to run the 5km to the end and back, wouldn't it? Apparently only just. I think my legs felt as heavy as they did after the marathon at the end of an Ironman by the time I slipped wearily back into the swimming pool.
I left the dry, sunny days of Thailand, together with its reduced to clear baked delights found in the Tesco Express stores which I had been so happily reunited with, on a boat headed 30kms along the coast to the main Malaysian peninsula. It is possible to cross into Malaysia by road at a number of points, however the foreign office advise against all but essential travel to four of the southern most Thai provinces in which these crossings are located. In order not to invalidate my insurance, I decided to take the short boat ride available. As I was traveling down the west side of the peninsula, I was therefore surprised when the port appeared from the right side of the boat. My suspicion that something wasn't quite right were confirmed when I got off the boat and turned on my GPS only to find myself on an island. When I bought my ticket the night before, I had forgotten to take the piece of paper with the name of the place I wanted to go on it. I had been assured by the Englishman working there that Langkawi was the name of the place I intended to go. As I was on Langkawi I thought I would cycle round the island on my fresh set of tyres which I had had to put on the bike a couple of days previously as after 23,500km the old ones were past their best. After stopping to camp for the night on a beautiful deserted beach, I came back to the ferry terminal armed with my bit of paper in hand, and was able to purchase the correct ticket. The boat was due to depart at 13:00 and after checking the current time with what looked to be a local I headed off for some lunch and generally procrastinated before entering the departure lounge when I had exhausted the limited sights at the terminal. The departure lounge was completely deserted. I knew that I was nearly an hour early but still expected a few keen travelers to have lined up their luggage by the gate (a trick people in this part of the world seem to use to save their place in the queue). I glanced at the clock on the wall and to my horror saw the hands pointing to five past one. Evidently Malaysia is an hour ahead of Thailand. I rushed through the gate and watched as they were loading the last two pieces of cargo onto the boat in the distance. Thankfully I arrived just in time and didn't need a third attempt to get to where I wanted to go.
The ride through Malaysia presented its challenges: the rainy season had started which left me pretty damp at the end of most days, struggling to see though the steam and rain covering my glasses and as suncream from my forehead continually washed into my eyes; sunburn was becoming an increasing problem largely due to the increased sensitivity caused by the anti-malarial tablets I'm taking leading me to dig out and wear my arm warmers in the 38 degree heat to protect my very red arms; peeing at the side of the road became a bit of a problem as now that I was in an Islamic country that sort of thing just doesn't seem to be done; and bees had continued to get caught in my helmet and sunglasses stinging my face before dying their slow deaths as I squirted the affected area and the bee with water. Bees in Asia seem to be very mean or very dopey as that is three times I've been attacked now. Still the food was excellent, particularly the 'all you can fit on your plate' buffets (or at least that's how I approached them), very tasty and perfect for hungry cyclists. It was with some relief therefore that I reached Singapore where I have been enjoying the comfort of a dry house, the company of my Dad's cousin's family and the taste of those humble Jaffa Cakes.
Me Capers, King of The Jungle
In past posts you may have read about some of my weaker moments and confessions on this trip which probably have led many to write me off as a being a bit of a pansy. It's true that my reaction to the sight of blood or creepy crawlies may be slightly more cowardice than other people's but hopefully I am starting to 'man-up' as they say...
As the last of the swimmers dried off and left the beach on the island of Langkawi, a troop of monkeys descended to hunt for any tasty morsels these holiday makers had left behind in the rubbish bins. I had just started preparing to cook my appetising dinner of pasta and a stock cube. I hadn't expected to be cooking that evening so hadn't carried supplies for a more wholesome meal, however the menu didn't put off those little furry beasts. Before I knew it I was surrounded by a whole troop of long-tailed macaques with the largest male staring at me and bearing his teeth. It felt like a scene from The Matrix, Kill Bill, or one of those awful martial arts movies they showed so regularly on Chinese TV as I rose to fight them all off armed only with my shoe, my precious dinner and perhaps a misplaced sense of bravery. The male stepped forward aggressively but still slightly unsure of the human dressed in the golden lycra shorts in front of him. I was a hungry boy and not about to be robbed of my slightly bland meal so with all the energy I could muster I made myself big, roared and charged at the monkey drawing my shoe above my head ready to strike. In fear, he started to run away so I increased my pace until he had fled up the hill and out of sight. At this the other monkeys scattered and I rose up on the bench beating my chest, proclaiming to the world that I was the king of this jungle (ok, so no chest beating but I was respectfully left to devour the food I had risked my life and pride for).